Endorsements in Iowa: Why They Matter

Posted: January 15, 2016 | By: Iowa Caucus Project Staff Tagged: Blog
Iowa State Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa (R) introducing John Kasich, whom she endorsed in July, at a town hall in Ankeny. Photo by Katie Ramsey.

Iowa State Rep. Mary Ann Hanusa (R) introducing John Kasich, whom she endorsed in July, at a town hall in Ankeny. Photo by Katie Ramsey.

Elected officials in Iowa make it a point to endorse presidential candidates. Why? What does either group gain from when a relatively small-time official in a state in the middle of the Midwest makes a public statement of support for a candidate running for a national office? Quite a lot, in fact.

From state officials’ perspective, if they pick a winner early and make themselves valuable, there’s a lot to be gained. Their endorsement could secure a speaking engagement by the candidate at a fundraiser for the state official, prompting more people to buy tickets, which means more money in the bank. They also benefit from praise and suffer from the backlash a candidate faces throughout the campaign. They get to align themselves with a candidate whose views they presumably agree with. When a voter hears that Mary Ann Hanusa endorsed John Kasich, they will typically infer Kasich’s views and opinions line up with Hanusa’s.

From the candidate’s perspective, an endorsement from a state official earns them a respected and effective organizer that is well connected within the district they represent. This type of endorsement has the potential to increase the strength of their ground game in Iowa, thus giving them better chances of a victory come caucus time.

While Iowa Republicans have been handing out endorsements left and right, the Democrats have been a much quieter bunch. There were a handful of representatives that were on Team Biden or Team Warren back when they were still potential candidates but after they each neglected to run, it has been all quiet on the home front. This difference in tactics between the parties could be credited to the relative stability in the Democratic Party versus the relative chaos in the Republican Party. Most people in Iowa Democratic circles presume Hillary Clinton to be the front runner and eventual nominee, and both she and Bernie Sanders have incredibly well-organized state teams, so they wouldn’t find any useful purpose in an endorsement.

In short, while it’s cool to have celebrities say nice things about your candidate, in Iowa, the members of our state house tend to have more sway.


Katie Ramsey is a senior public relations major with a concentration in politics. She is a proud Iowan who watches too much SNL and is the only journalism student in recorded history without a coffee habit. Follow her on Twitter.